Nurserymen’s Exchange in Half Moon Bay files for bankruptcy

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Nurserymen’s Exchange, one of Half Moon Bay’s largest employers, has filed for bankruptcy.

The wholesaler of edible, blooming and specialty plants including blueberries, roses and ivy owes creditors nearly $25 million and is selling its land and operations.

Over the next three to four months, Nurserymen intends to auction off its operations, including eco-friendly greenhouses and a long-standing workforce.

Business will carry on unaffected during the Chapter 11 proceedings, said spokeswoman Rivian Bell.

“We have been looking for the right buyer and we’re hoping that now we’re operating under Chapter 11, it will accelerate those who are interested in the company to come forward,” Bell said.

Started and still owned by the Pearlstein family, the 70-year-old company has identified RL Communities as a potential buyer of 28 acres of company land along state Highway 1, according to a newspaper report. The grass-topped parcels, worth $8 million, are zoned for housing subdivisions and may be purchased by the developer as early as July.

Nurserymen’s Exchange is just one of many nurseries to suffer from the recession.

“If you look at the nursery business, it has been very hard hit over the past few years,” Bell said. “Hines Nurseries went through Chapter 11, Jackson & Perkins did a Chapter 11; there’s a lot.”

Nurserymen’s began streamlining its operations two years ago as part of a restructuring plan which saved some $10 million and improved operating profits by $6 million, according to Bell. A year ago, 132 of its some 300 employees were laid off.

John Muller, a member of the Half Moon Bay City Council and personal friend of the Pearlstein family, said he does not expect the Nurserymen’s bankruptcy or pending sale to radically impact the area.

“Without a doubt, it’s been an emotional time, but it will not affect the city — they’ll work through it,” he said.

nkyriakou@sfexaminer.com

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